Junna Tsukii 2019 SEA Games

The Philippines’ Junna Tsukii celebrates her gold medal finish in the women’s Karatedo-50 kg of the 30th Southeast Asian Games. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/ Sherwin Vardeleon

With the national karatekas deprived of sparring for almost a year, Karate Pilipinas president Ricky Lim on Thursday said national coach Okay Arpa suggested they skip the coming World Karate Federation (WKF) Premier League and just pour their efforts into the Olympic qualification tournament in Paris, France, on June 12.

“What we really need right now are sparring partners, not the actual competition itself,’’ Lim told the Inquirer. “Let’s just concentrate on the Olympic qualifying.’’


Six karatekas are currently inside the training bubble at the Inspire Sports Academy—Jamie Lim, Sharif Afif, Alwyn Batican, Ivan Agustin, Jason Macaalay and Matthew Manantan—but they only began their sparring sessions less than a month ago.

“Why should we force them to compete if they are not ready yet? It might be a demoralizing factor for them, especially if they lose,’’ said Lim.


The training bubble was put up so national athletes can get back to training safely in a bio-secure environment while the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage.

Passing up two forthcoming WKF Premier League tournaments, the team decided instead to train in Turkey for two months starting March 15 where they will compete in two or three closed-door pocket tournaments.

Orbon, Tsukii

Joining them in Turkey are two-time Pan-American champion Joane Orbon on March 16 while Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Junna Tsukii will stay in Japan under the tutelage of her father.

“These are experienced players already, what they need after one year of no face-to-face training are multiple partners with different fighting styles for them to regain their timing, reflex, distance and reaction,’’ said Lim.

Coach Arpa has helped the team book the 60-day camp in Istanbul and Ankara in Turkey where the Filipinos will spar with the world champions from the Turkish national team and three other countries, including the spunky Iranians.

“There’s no problem when it comes to strength and conditioning because they’ve been doing it the whole year. The problem would be the lack of training partners. They are inside the bubble, but are just training amongst themselves,’’ said Lim.

After the Turkey camp, the local karate federation will decide on the lineup of karatekas—three females and three males—who will enter the Olympic qualifier before they leave for Paris on June 1.

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